Resources for managing fire and forests in the context of climate change

In collaboration with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), we developed a ‘menu’ of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for managing fire under future climate conditions. This ‘Fire Menu’ is modeled after the original menu of Climate Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for Forests published by NIACS (Swanston et al. 2016). The menu is intended to be used as part of the Adaptation Workbook process developed by NIACS and available online through the Climate Change Response Framework. We continue the process of seeking feedback and improving this menu, and the current version is available in the expandable list below, as well as in a downloadable file in the sidebar. 

Fire-Climate Adaptation Strategies and Approaches

    Approach 1.1. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems
    • Tactic example- Use prescribed fire and mechanical treatments to manipulate structure and fuels
    • Tactic example- Promote fire- and drought-adapted species and communities
    • Tactic example- Increase intentional use of wildfires whenever possible
    Approach 1.2. Develop fire use strategies in altered or novel ecosystems where fire can play a beneficial role
    • Tactic example- Manage forest restoration for future range of variability
    • Tactic example- Consider using more prescribed fire where supported by scientific evidence
    • Tactic example- Consider using prescribed fire in non-traditional ways (e.g. low-intensity controlled burning in mesic mixed conifer to reduce fuels and risk of high-severity fire)
    Approach 1.3. Protect fire-sensitive ecosystems from fire
    • Tactic example- Reduce ignitions in areas sensitive to fire
    • Tactic example- Control nonnative invasive species
    • Tactic example- Implement and maintain fuel breaks in strategic locations
    • Tactic example- Encourage acceptable fire in buffers surrounding fire-sensitive areas
    Approach 2.1. Prevent the establishment and spread of nonnative invasive species, and remove existing populations
    • Tactic example- Increase inventory and monitoring of nonnative invasive species
    • Tactic example- Use mechanical or chemical means to eradicate high priority populations of nonnative invasive species
    • Tactic example- Create and enforce regulations for internal staff, contractors, and the public to prevent accidental introduction of nonnative invasive plant material
    Approach 2.2. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens
    • Tactic example- Increase inventory and monitoring of pests and pathogens, focusing on high priority areas
    • Tactic example- Anticipate the arrival of pests and pathogens and prioritize management actions
    • Tactic example- Promote species, age class, and stand structure diversity to reduce density of a host species
    • Tactic example- Use chemical control in heavily infested areas
    • Tactic example- Promote pest- and pathogen-resistant species or genotypes during thinning and planting
    • Tactic example- Restrict harvest and transportation of logs in or near stands with known infestations
    Approach 2.3. Limit and selectively apply land uses that alter or degrade ecosystem structure and/or function
    • Tactic example- Consider and actively manage fire risk in areas of heavy recreational use
    • Tactic example- Limit increased WUI area resulting from development and urban expansion
    Approach 3.1. Alter forest structure and/or composition to reduce the risk of unacceptably severe wildfire
    • Tactic example- Implement strategic fuel treatments/fuel breaks to reduce fire behavior
    • Tactic example- Reduce tree density within stands (thinning, Rx burning) considering historic ranges of variation and anticipated future conditions
    • Tactic example- Reduce ladder fuels and increase crown base height using mechanical or Rx burn treatments
    • Tactic example- Suppress wildfires that threaten to burn at unacceptably high severities
    Approach 3.2. Establish fuel breaks to stop the spread of unacceptable wildfire
    • Tactic example- Create fuel breaks in strategic locations preventatively
    • Tactic example- Create fuel breaks to protect infrastructure (WUI) and other non-negotiable resources
    • Tactic example- Prevent ignitions and suppress wildfires in non-fire-adapted systems
    Approach 4.1. Maintain or create refugia
    • Tactic example- Identify processes and conditions that create fire refugia
    • Tactic example- Inventory and document existing refugia that have survived previous fires
    • Tactic example- Add refugia to maps/lists of resources requiring special protection during fire suppression/management, communicate this information to fire managers
    • Tactic example- Identify and protect focal areas for regeneration and recovery following a disturbance
    • Tactic example- Prioritize and maintain unique sites and sensitive or at-risk ecological communities
    Approach 4.2 Facilitate post-fire ecosystem recovery to reduce the long-term effects of unacceptable wildfire
    • Tactic example- Contour felling, wood mulching, and other slope stabilization techniques to reduce soil loss and post-fire flooding
    • Tactic example- Create suitable physical conditions for natural regeneration through site preparation after a burn to promote seed establishment
    • Tactic example- Plant native species expected with an emphasis on those adapted to future conditions
    • Tactic example- Experiment with planting native species to compete with invasives expected to colonize after fire
    Approach 4.3. Promote habitat connectivity and increase ecosystem redundancy at the landscape scale
    • Locate and map habitat types, corridors, and patches at a landscape scale, identify priorities for protection and/or restoration
    • Restore native species and vegetation structure in areas of low connectivity
    • Restore or increase a community type across a range of topographic positions and elevations
    • Work with partners to achieve connectivity goals at the landscape level
    Approach 5.1 Promote diversity within and among communities
    • Tactic example- Promote age class and structural diversity through regeneration harvest, thinning, prescribed fire, and managed wildfire
    • Tactic example- Identify keystone species and roles in fire adapted systems, maintain or restore where possible
    • Tactic example- Retain patches of existing vegetation to the greatest extent possible
    Approach 5.2 Maintain or increase structural diversity at the landscape scale
    • Tactic example- Employ techniques such as variable-density treatments or irregular fire return intervals in order to encourage the development of multiple age cohorts
    • Tactic example- Implement a variety of management activities or silvicultural prescriptions across multiple stands or areas with similar starting conditions in order to diversify forest conditions and evaluate different management approaches
    • Tactic example- Use prescribed burning to create openings or early successional habitat
    Approach 5.3 Maintain or restore diversity of native tree and understory plant species
    • Tactic example- Maintain up-to-date inventory of native plant species in management area, monitor health of populations
    • Tactic example- Use silvicultural treatments to promote and enhance diverse regeneration of native species
    • Tactic example- Plant desired native species in areas otherwise expected to regenerate naturally
    Approach 6.1. Use seeds, germplasm, and other genetic material from across a greater geographic range
    • Tactic example- Use mapping programs to match seeds collected from a known origin to planting sites based on climatic information
    • Tactic example- Plant seedlings germinated from seeds collected from various locations throughout a species native range
    Approach 6.2. Favor existing genotypes that are better adapted to future conditions
    • Tactic example- Plant stock from seeds collected from local trees that have survived past fire and other disturbances
    • Tactic example- Plant stock from seeds collected from healthy trees in warmer and drier locations in the region
    • Tactic example- Monitor areas of natural regeneration to identify well-adapted phenotypes
    Approach 6.3 Increase seed banking efforts to preserve genetic diversity
    • Tactic example- Preserve specimens from a diverse array of genotypes
    • Tactic example- Focus on endemic species or species with narrow geographic ranges
    • Tactic example- Focus on genotypes proven to be resistant to stressors, particularly vigorous, or adapted to past disturbance
    Approach 7.1. Promote native species that are expected to be resilient to future climate and fire regimes and disfavor species that are distinctly maladapted
    • Tactic example- Plant, and protect existing, species resilient to fire and other disturbances
    • Tactic example- Promote species with shorter times to sexual maturity
    • Tactic example- Promote species with wider ecological amplitude
    • Tactic example- Remove unhealthy individuals of a declining species in order to promote other species known or expected to be better adapted
    • Tactic example- Do not continue to promote species that are known or expected to maladapted to future fire regimes
    Approach 7.2. Facilitate the movement of species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions and fire regimes
    • Tactic example- Plant disturbance and fire-adapted species on sites within the current range that have not been historically occupied by those species
    • Tactic example- Consider planting species native to lower elevations, drier, and/or warmer geographic areas nearby, or areas with more frequent fire, based on projected range expansion
    Approach 7.3. Consider using fire as a tool to align existing vegetation communities with changing climate regimes
    • Tactic example- Shift prescribed burn seasons to align with project climatic changes
    • Tactic example- Consider using managed and/or prescribed fire to facilitate transition to new fire regimes
    • Tactic example- Consider increasing acreage treated with prescribed fire in the short term in areas where current regeneration responses are desirable (and future regeneration trends are uncertain)
    Approach 8.1. Revegetate burned areas using fire-tolerant and drought-adapted species and genotypes
    • Tactic example- Integrate climate-sensitive revegetation planning into the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) and other post-fire activities
    • Tactic example- Consider specific experiments such as common gardens to test performance of different species or genetically different populations
    • Tactic example- Monitor and control invasive species
    Approach 8.2. Allow for areas of natural regeneration to test for future-adapted species
    • Tactic example- Increase post-fire monitoring to collect information on mortality and regeneration at the species level
    • Tactic example- Incorporate areas of natural regeneration or ‘passive realignment’ into BAER and other post-fire management and monitor outcomes
    • Tactic example- Consider traits such as drought-tolerance, shade tolerance, and C3/C4 pathways in monitoring efforts
    Approach 8.3. Realign ecosystems that have undergone post-fire vegetation type conversion to meet expected future conditions
    • Tactic example- Consider future range of variability in post-fire management
    • Tactic example- Plant species expected to be better adapted to future conditions, especially where natural regeneration is slow or absent
    • Tactic example- Create novel communities where the level of disturbance necessitates intensive remediation efforts to recover desired ecosystem services or characteristics (e.g. tree cover)
    • Tactic example- Reduce or remove focus on eradication of nonnative or aggressive native species where they may form part of a novel community that is preferable to a lack of vegetation
    Approach 9.1. Develop adaptive staffing and budgeting strategies
    • Tactic example- Cross train staff to prepare for short time frame/ high effort projects
    • Tactic example- Implement new agreements with partners to increase implementation capacity
    • Tactic example- Consider establishing a dedicated staff person to navigate partnerships and agreements
    • Tactic example- Strategically use single-year funds
    Approach 9.2. Explicitly consider future and changing ecological conditions during the planning process and adaptive management cycle
    • Tactic example- Devise flexible management protocols to avoid rigid requirements to restore historic conditions
    • Tactic example- Explicitly consider opportunities created by a longer prescribed burning season
    • Tactic example- Build ‘if/then’ statements before fire or other disturbance events to plan and prepare for multiple future management scenarios
    Approach 9.3 Facilitate and streamline information management and sharing
    • Tactic example- Digitize documents that only exist in hard copy
    • Tactic example- Promote file-sharing technology
    • Tactic example- Create new opportunities to formally share success stories or outcomes of pilot projects
    • Tactic example- Develop systems for effective communication within and between agencies and organizations
    Approach 10.1 Increase fuel reduction treatments in the wildland-urban interface
    • Tactic example- Implement mechanical thinning in areas adjacent to developed areas and structures
    • Tactic example- Develop spatial priorities for implementation of thinning or other fire mitigation efforts
    Approach 10.2. Actively promote broad social awareness and Increase education and about anticipated effects of climate change on local fire regimes at all scales
    • Tactic example- Share climate adaptation plans and examples of implementation with the public
    • Tactic example- Explicitly address climate adaptation in agency planning documents made available to the public
    • Tactic example- Communicate example of climate adaptation efforts that have social benefits to stakeholders and the public (e.g. increased opportunities for products like fuelwood)